Looking for something fun and unique to get your New Year’s Eve house party host/hostess? Do up a boozy gift that you made with your own two loving hands. No expensive bottle of champagne can top that! For some ideas, I went to Los Angeles bartenders known for their housemade bar ingredients. Thankfully, nothing too complex here, but for your convenience they’re listed according to prep time.
Mint Liqueur by Christiaan Rollich (AOC, Lucques), Time: 1 week
Bartender Rollich makes most of his cocktail ingredients himself -- tinctures, sodas, liqueurs -- but was all about his mint liqueur. “These are a bit trickier. But look amazing if done correctly,” he cautioned. “It takes a lot of precise measurements otherwise you have a whole lot of alcohol not really made for consumption.” If the liqueur is too potent for your taste, he says you can cut it by adding 405 ml of water to that 750 ml of spirit.
750 ml of 151 grain spirit
187 ml sugar
2 bunches fresh mint
1. Combine all ingredients in a glass container, cover it and let it sit for a week. Stir it daily.
2. Strain through a chinois and add simple syrup to taste. For his simple syrup, Rollich uses 3 parts sugar to 2 parts water.
☸ ☸ ☸
Stinging Nettle Gin by Matthew Biancaniello (Feed Body & Soul, Plan Check), Time: 1 week
If your party host is a big Biancaniello fan they’ll lovvvve this gift as it’s something he has used in one of his Cliff’s Edge cocktails, “A Walk in the Woods” made with stinging nettle-infused gin, aquavit, wild sorrel, and wild grass juice.
1 bottle of Cap Rock Gin
1 pound of Coleman Farms stinging nettles (available Wednesday and Saturday at Santa Monica Farmers Market)
1. Combine ingredients in a large glass jar. Stir. Allow to steep for 7 days.
2. Strain back into gin bottle, or a hermetic glass bottle. Enjoy.
☸ ☸ ☸
Spiced Apple Bourbon by Brittini Rae Peterson (Goldie’s), Time: 48 hours
Leave it to Eater L.A.’s Bartender of the Year Brittini Rae to think outside the box with her DIY gift. “A lot of people are doing their own homemade spiced rum to mimic Captain Morgan’s. And for the winter, everyone likes to drink whiskey so I started to do research about spiced rums,” she said. Tweaking a spiced rum recipe she found in Imbibe she used bourbon and Gala apples, which “ended up giving the most flavor. But make sure you use high-proof whiskey, she says. Anything less would end up too sweet. Brittini uses this bourbon in her “Spiced & Malted Nog” at Goldie’s.
1 750 ml bottle of bonded, high-proof bourbon, like Old Fitzgerald 100 proof
4 Gala apples in quarters
4 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
Place all ingredients in a glass container and let sit for a minimum of 24 hours (preferably 48 hours) at room temperature, then strain out when ready.
☸ ☸ ☸
Pineapple and Cinnamon Infused Campari by Beau du Bois (The Corner Door), Time: 48 hours
This would be the perfect digestif after that New Year’s dinner but Beau uses it in his “Taco Truck” cocktail at Corner Door.
1 750ml bottle Campari
1 whole ripe pineapple
3 cinnamon sticks
1. Skin, core, and chop pineapple into 1-2-inch pieces, add to 1-gallon glass jar.
2. Gently toast cinnamon sticks in a saute pan over low heat until warmed and slightly smoky, use tongs to add to jar.
3. Fill jar with full bottle of Campari and let mixture infuse for 12 hours.
4. After 12 hours use tongs to remove cinnamon sticks.
5. Continue to infuse the mixture for 48 hours. Use within three to four months.
☸ ☸ ☸
Mulled Wine Sachets by Karen Grill (Bestia), Time: 15 minutes
Short on time and cash? Do up this sachet of spices to pair with a bottle of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, or a Spanish red, suggests Karen. “These also work really well with apple cider.” Tell the host to simmer the wine and spice sachet in a saucepan for 20 minutes, then ladle into mugs and serve.
4 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 cardamom pods
2 orange peels (pith removed)
2 Tablespoon evaporated cane sugar or turbinado sugar
1. Layer ingredients in a 6x6 square of doubled cheesecloth.
2. Tie up the cheesecloth with twine (ribbon looks pretty, but don't cook with it!).